Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Ecology

More evidence of ‘insect apocalypse’

The Guardian reports: Two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The research adds to growing evidence of what some scientists have called an “insect apocalypse”, which is threatening a collapse in the natural world that sustains humans and all life on Earth. A third study shows plummeting numbers of aquatic insects in streams.

Bumblebees’ decline points to mass extinction, scientists say

PA Media reports: Bumblebees are in drastic decline across Europe and North America owing to hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures, scientists say. A study suggests the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30% in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”. Peter Soroye, a PhD student

The playbook for poisoning our planet

The Intercept reports: In September 2009, over 3,000 bee enthusiasts from around the world descended on the city of Montpellier in southern France for Apimondia — a festive beekeeper conference filled with scientific lectures, hobbyist demonstrations, and commercial beekeepers hawking honey. But that year, a cloud loomed over the event: bee colonies across the globe were collapsing, and billions of bees were dying. Bee declines have been observed throughout recorded

In untold numbers, animals are suffering and dying, and we are either partly or wholly responsible

Jeff Sebo writes: At the time of writing, Australia is on fire. The fires have killed at least 25 humans and more than a billion animals. Animals such as koalas are especially at risk, since their normal response to threats – climbing to the tops of trees – leaves them vulnerable in the case of fire. As a result, an estimated 25,000 koalas have died and many more will die

The bleak future of Australian wildlife

Ed Yong writes: As temperatures rise, Australia becomes more monochrome. In the ocean, the reefs have been whitening. On land, the forests have been blackening. Successive heat waves have forced corals to expel their colorful, nutrient-providing algae; half of the Great Barrier Reef has died. A near-unprecedented drought and exceptional temperatures—December saw Australia’s two hottest days on record—triggered the unusually intense bushfires that have incinerated almost 18 million acres of

How viruses secretly control the planet

Nala Rogers writes: Viruses control their hosts like puppets — and in the process, they may play important roles in Earth’s climate. The hosts in this case aren’t people or animals: They are bacteria. A growing body of research is revealing how viruses manipulate what bacteria eat and how they guide the chemical reactions that sustain life. When those changes happen to a lot of bacteria, the cumulative effects could

History’s largest mining operation is about to begin

Wil S. Hylton writes: Unless you are given to chronic anxiety or suffer from nihilistic despair, you probably haven’t spent much time contemplating the bottom of the ocean. Many people imagine the seabed to be a vast expanse of sand, but it’s a jagged and dynamic landscape with as much variation as any place onshore. Mountains surge from underwater plains, canyons slice miles deep, hot springs billow through fissures in

Those financing climate disaster need to learn from indigenous wisdom

Tara Houska writes: “This way of life is not primitive, it is not uncivilised,” I gestured to the image on the screen just above my head. It showed my longtime teacher, Dennis Jones, knocking manoomin (wild rice), the grain sacred to Anishinaabe people, into a canoe. I snapped that photo of us harvesting wild rice years back, before a new pipeline called Line 3 threatened to carry a million barrels

Our oceans brim with climate solutions. We need a Blue New Deal

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson writes: Our nation has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline, home to 40 percent of Americans who live in coastal counties. Our blue economy, including fishing, ocean farming, shipping, tourism and recreation, supports more than 3.25 million American jobs and a $300-billion annual contribution to our gross domestic product. And, for many, our cultural heritage is tied to the sea. These communities are threatened by rising sea

Bushfires in Australia’s Gondwana rainforests destroy areas that have historically been too wet to burn

The Guardian reports: The Unesco world heritage centre has expressed concern about bushfire damage to the Gondwana rainforests of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland, and asked the Australian government whether it is affecting their world heritage values. In a statement on its website, the centre said members of the media and civil society had asked about the bushfires affecting the areas inscribed on the world heritage list as

Indigenous knowledge can help solve the biodiversity crisis

Hannah Rundle writes: The United Nations recently released a preliminary report warning that global biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, with approximately one million species currently at risk of extinction. However, the report noted biodiversity is declining at a significantly slower rate on lands governed by indigenous peoples, demonstrating their success as stewards of their natural environment. Biodiversity describes genetic diversity within and between species and is integral to

Light pollution is key ‘bringer of insect apocalypse’

The Guardian reports: Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date. Artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives, the researchers said, from luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, to spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads, to obscuring the mating signals of fireflies. “We strongly believe

Thoreau, the scientist

Curt Stager writes: Much more has been said and written about Thoreau’s philosopher-poet side than his naturalist side, but as a scientist I am more interested in the latter. The journals that he kept from 1837 to 1861 were so full of natural history observations that they might have become a major scientific work if he had not died of a lung ailment at age 44. He probably thought so,

Koalas ‘functionally extinct’ after Australia bushfires destroy 80% of their habitat

Trevor Nace reports: As Australia experiences record-breaking drought and bushfires, koala populations have dwindled along with their habitat, leaving them “functionally extinct.” The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas have been killed from the fires and that 80 percent of their habitat has been destroyed. Recent bushfires, along with prolonged drought and deforestation has led to koalas becoming “functionally extinct” according to experts.

Pope Francis: Catechism will be updated to define ecological sins

America magazine reports: Following through on a proposal made at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, Pope Francis said there are plans to include a definition of ecological sins in the church’s official teaching. “We should be introducing — we were thinking — in the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, ecological sin against the common home,” he told participants at a conference on criminal justice

The elephant-human relationship dates back into prehistory

Tim Flannery writes: In January 1962, on my sixth birthday, I was taken to Melbourne Zoo, where I rode an elephant. We children climbed a scaffold and perched on rough wooden benches atop the elephant’s back, where my fingers furtively reached for a feel of its wrinkled skin. A few months later, elephant rides were discontinued, for safety reasons, at most zoos in Australia, Europe, and the US. I was